Alumni Spotlight: Colby Ferland

Colby is a recent graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, DC. He recently moved to Asia to work on his foreign language proficiency, and wants to teach English part time.

Why did you pick this program?

I wanted a program that was already located in Asia. I knew I would be moving to Taiwan for Mandarin courses, so I was hoping to find a program elsewhere and check another country off my travel list. I've always wanted to visit Thailand, and so this was a great reason to spend a month in Phuket, while acquiring my TESOL certification.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The course providers managed close to everything. They provided all the technical information I needed before my arrival, listed out popular accommodation options, and then booked the one I chose for me. They even let me know who else in the course would be arriving at the airport around the same time and put us in touch so we could share a taxi. You will find that their email response rate is rapid and professional. All I had to do was get some application materials (official transcripts, a criminal background check, etc.) together back in the states, which are helpful if you want a job right after the course ends.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

If you're serious about being a weekend-warrior or taking advantage of free-time during the week, then I think renting a scooter is the way to go - you can always take study materials with you. I didn't, and I still managed to see a few different beaches for cheap by using the bus system. This certainly takes more time, and requires a lot of walking. Like I said...I managed. You can go most places via the buses, but that's pretty much an entire day's effort. Having a scooter would mean you can buzz off to pretty much anywhere you want on the island at any given time. It's a serious advantage for those that want to maximize their tourist time. Thought it's certainly not mandatory, as there's plenty to do within Phuket Town itself.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The first couple of days you will be there all day, similar to a normal work day. For the rest of the course, you will be busy from 9:30am-12:30pm. After this, you will either have observed teaching practice (OTP) which begins at either 4:30pm or 6:30pm, OR you will have an "off" day (it's about half/half). If you're teaching, you'll be spending a couple hours that day doing your lesson planning, and by the time it's all over and done with that's pretty much your whole day. Start early, get out late, go to bed. On days where you don't have scheduled OTP, you can either study, work on a couple long term projects, or forget about school and go have fun in Phuket. Some students felt they needed to study the whole time. For me, I mostly played around in my off-time the first couple weeks/weekends, and then got serious for the last two weeks and I had NO problems with the exam. I guess it depends on how quickly you learn and how comfortable you are with grammar and language. The exam isn't an impossible monster, but unless your college degree focused on English the odds are good you're going to have to put in some days hitting the books.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I've lived abroad before, but never in Southeast Asia. I guess I was wondering if I would step off the plane and be like "whoa... this was a mistake. I'm going home." If you're coming from a wealthy and/or modern Western city, that first day in Phuket Town is definitely going to smack you in the face. Isn't that the whole point though? If you're not up for a challenge, then you probably shouldn't just up and move to Thailand. My advice? Don't have a bar of expectations, bring a suitcase and some clothes, your passport, some cash, and a good attitude. The rest will work itself out.

Colby's Tips for Eating in Thailand:

Eating might be a struggle at first, fortunately the course instructors provide you with a list of restaurants. I highly suggest using them to start. Noodle soup, Pad Thai, curry chicken/pork with rice, and Pad See Ew are pretty universal choices. If you like them at your local Thai restaurant back home, odds are you'll like the real deal. Start there and build your way out!